What we have been experiencing in recent years is a real blast from the past. Between movies and video games, revivals are more and more frequent, just think of the videogame remake or to sequel to films from decades ago. The 2010s meant for the "newcomers" to be able to rediscover the classics of the past by crossroads, and this is partly the case with Wrath: Aeon of Ruin. Because yes, we are not talking about a historical brand that has come back to light after years of retirement, but about a video game that follows in every respect everything that made the 90s FPS. And we are not talking about any FPS, but about cornerstones of the genre such as Duke Nukem e Shadow Warrior, both developed by 3D Realms (Eg Apogee Software), the same development team that took care of this interesting project examined today. Wrath: Aeon of Ruin is currently only available in Early Access, so the analysis that you will find below is necessarily limited, since the title has not yet been completed. Having made this necessary premise, let's dive into a past made of low resolution textures!
Dive into the past
When we talked about the fact that Wrath: Aeon of Ruin evokes the atmosphere of the 90s FPS it was certainly not a joke, indeed. The 3D Realms title wants to really immerse us in the past, and this prompted the development team to use a re-adapted version of the Quake Engine, a graphics engine that carries over twenty years on its shoulders! The result is incredible in its being deliberately vintage, and makes the title accessible even to those who do not have high-performance PCs. Textures, animations, environments, it's all so retro that the title really looks like something out of the 90s.
The title is so retro that the developers have not lost themselves in pleasantries at the narrative level. Starting the game ... you will play, without verbose introductions and long explanatory videos. You are armed, you are angry and in front of you are rows of monsters ready to be torn apart without mercy. Once we enter the game world, made up of deliberately large textures like houses, we can finally try to become familiar with the controls. The movement system, fluid and responsive, it's flawless and the leap system is original in its own way. To get to areas too far to reach with a simple jump, the secondary attack of our blade (the first weapon at our disposal) will help us, which consists of a shot that can also be used in mid-air.
Here, however, we must introduce the first defect of the title, which is the fact that during the jump we will not have any air control. We will not be able to change our trajectory while we will have only air under our feet, which is really a great shame. Another flaw, always linked to jumping, is that jumping close to a slope will be nerve-wracking at times, and we will have to try the jump several times in certain circumstances. We think about remedying this the total lack of fall damage. Whatever height you fall from, don't make any scratches. It is not clear whether this is an oversight or a deliberate thing.
Low resolution rivers of blood
Once you have become familiar with the controls, the first innovations come into play. First of all, the rescue system will be very unique. In fact, except in rare cases (i.e. altars scattered throughout the levels), there will be no fixed save points and we will not be able to save from the menu. In order to save our progress it will be necessary to find gods specific talismans which will allow you to perform a quick save. If the Game Over should occur we will be able to choose whether to reload the save from the altar or from where we used the talisman. It might seem too punishing a system, but in reality you will find dozens of talismans, probably more than you actually need. It will be up to you to use them wisely without wasting them.
Putting these technicalities aside, let's move on to the meat, to that element that makes FPS of this type truly memorable: the weapons. The tools of death that you will find in this Early Access version of Wrath: Aeon of Ruin currently are five, but in the final version there will be more four. The weapons that we have been able to test are: la long, useful only for the jump shot mentioned above; the gun, much more useful than you might think; the shotgun, weapon with a limited but devastating (perhaps too much) range at short range; The "shooter“, A weapon that works like a machine gun but which instead of bullets will use the fangs of defeated enemies; the explosive blob launcher, basically a grenade launcher.
Although we are not talking about anything innovative, the gunplay works excellently. Fluid and frenetic, you will not stand still for a single moment. The whole thing is damn convincing, and slaughtering the various aberrations that arise before you will be damn fun. Too bad for the secondary attack of the weapons, which in some ways is a forced addition of somewhat dubious utility (click of the blade apart). Obviously you will not have problems of capacity, since in Wrath: Aeon of Ruin you will be able to carry all the weapons collected, just like the tradition for this kind of titles.
The enemies, useless to turn around, are "fools". Although they are foolproof snipers (leaning slightly will mean being hit instantly) it will be easy to break their artificial intelligence. During our rehearsals it was not uncommon to see some monsters get stuck in a wall in a desperate attempt to reach us and play with our guts. Even the difficulty level is currently to be reviewed, as we will find life vials, power ups and ammo in abundance and the thing makes the challenge almost non-existent even at the highest difficulty levels (currently three are available). However, we must reiterate that we are talking about a Early Access, and that these are still programming problems that can be easily reviewed before the official launch of the title.
So much, too old
At the moment they are only available two levels, which can be addressed in any order by accessing them through a central hub. The really interesting mechanics of the title, which will certainly be deepened upon completion of development, is that regardless of the order in which we will face the various levels, they they will be progressively more difficult and full of pitfalls. This element will certainly give an edge to the challenge level, and we are confident that difficulty can be a winning factor for this title once it comes out of Early Access.
A real challenge, however, will be to extricate yourself labyrinthine game levels. We will have no aids, no messages, no NPCs to help us. There will be only us, our blood-filled weapons and our instincts. Backtracking will often be necessary, and often we will have to retrace the same route over and over again in desperate search for the exit. The maps are full of secrets, (complete with a counter!) but somewhat anonymous. On an artistic level there is nothing that stands out particularly, and here we go into what is the real problem of this Wrath: Aeon of Ruin. It is certainly interesting to see a title that will debut in 2020 showing so much love for video games of almost thirty years ago, but no one would have complained if some new features were implemented in the gameplay that would evolve the classic styles of the genre.
While this title is not meant to be innovative, the making it so classic makes it "anonymous" at the same time. We certainly do not pretend that the protagonist starts doing flips and flips, but the implementation of a simple climb, of unique kills with the use of the blade, of more inspired settings would also have been interesting. Instead it's all (deliberately) old-school, too old-school.
Obviously these are only preliminary examinations, and 3D Realms will still have time and way to remedy certain errors and make this new work something truly unique. The starting point is there, and it is excellent, just refine a few details to make Wrath: Aeon of Ruin an unmissable title for all lovers of the genre and more!